Sexual harassment has been an issue for employers for over three decades. The concept of sexual harassment had been discussed by academics and activists for several years leading up to its formal regulation, and some federal court decisions had recognized a cause of action for harassment. Ultimately, in 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that sexual harassment in the workplace could constitute a violation of federal laws against sex discrimination in employment.[1]

As with any legal issue facing employers, the best strategy regarding sexual harassment is prevention. Employers have reacted to the possibility of harassment litigation by imposing workplace rules on employee interaction, many of which address conduct that may have been tolerated in the past. These policies, however, will have little impact and do little good if employees do not understand them, or do not know how to practice the policy. A statement in the employee handbook that “sexual harassment is unlawful and will not be tolerated” does not provide much guidance on what is expected of employees, or what the repercussions exist for this type of behavior. Information and misinformation from outside sources such as the popular media will provoke even more confusion and misunderstanding.

In furtherance of these preventative measures, many employers have voluntarily instituted training programs for employees on harassment. Mandatory training has long been in place for government employees and contractors, but an increasing number of state and local governments have enacted training requirements for private employers. Some of these requirements are limited to employers in certain industries. Oregon has a training requirement for employers who provide janitorial services. of a certain size. The District of Columbia has a training requirement for all employers of tipped employees. Some jurisdictions have requirements that apply to all employers, regardless of industry or how employees are compensated. Delaware, for example, requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide new employees with interactive training and education on the prevention of sexual harassment. The training requirement in Maine applies to employers with 15 or more employees, while California makes harassment training mandatory in workplaces with five or more employees. New York goes beyond the requirements of most states, and requires all employers to have an anti-harassment policy that includes employee training in place.

This survey examines the laws of every state for workplace sexual harassment training requirements. Laws of selected municipal governments are also included. When you click through from this article you will be granted short term access to the comparative tool.

[1] Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986).